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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
In one of those weird cultural blips, the spelling bee—aside from rock-paper-scissors championships, the most low-tech of competitions—suddenly became hip in the last couple years. We've seen a documentary (Spellbound) and one or two fiction movies (that Starbucks one and that Richard Gere one); the bee's entree into urban nightlife (locally, Re-bar's Seattle Spelling Bee climaxes Monday with the final round); and, of all things, a hit musical. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opened on Broadway in May 2005, with an e-b-u-l-l-i- e-n-t score by William (March of the Falsettos) Finn and a (Tony Award-winning) book by Rachel Sheinkin; few if any recent musicals have earned such nearly u-n-a-n-i-m-o-u-s rave reviews. A cast of nine plays various parents and bee officials as well as six p-u-b-e-s-c-e-n-t contestants (Chip, Leaf, Logainne, Marcy, Olive, and William). Chosen to compete against them at each performance will be four audience members, adding a little real-world unpredictability to the proceedings. What'll be the next nerdy fringe activity to hit the mainstream? I predict barbershop quartets. Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., 292-ARTS, www.ticketmaster.com. $22–$70. Opens Tues. Jan. 9. 7:30 p.m. Tues.–Thurs., 8 p.m. Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun. Ends Sun., Jan. 14. GAVIN BORCHERT